Steve Jobs told a class of Stanford undergraduates in 2005: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” meaning don’t let external factors such as other people’s thinking dictate how you make a livelihood. In short, do what you love.
But doing what you love is just some overused romantic expression that doesn’t really apply outside of über geeks like Jobs, right? Wrong. Despite its being cliché and having been hijacked by get-rich-quick schemes, doing what you love can be achieved by anyone assuming you have the patience to seek it out, have the guts to act on your instincts, and are not easily persuaded by societal pressures when determining your career path.
So what if you don’t know what you like to do? First, relax; then accept my warmest welcomes into the human race. Not knowing what you want to do is completely normal and can happen at any time. To remedy the obstruction, you need to first isolate the things you DON’T like to do. Write them down as a list including menial tasks, then focus on the things you enjoy doing. Don’t rule anything out, not even Head of Janitorial Services. Be honest with yourself and don’t let logic interfere with the list-making process. “What work-related tasks get me excited?” should be the underlying theme.
If you’re diligent, you’ll eventually find what you love to do. When that happens, reality will set in and you’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions: Can I support my family doing this? Can I sacrifice certain lifestyle habits for a shot at doing what I love? That may include forgoing or postponing certain luxuries for the time being like excessively eating out, a second car, or a costly mortgage. But with some creative financing and gumption, you can make it happen more often than you think.
Once resolving to do what you love, you’ll also need to face the societal music. “You were supposed to be a [insert reputable profession here],” “You can’t change careers now,” and “You can’t make money as an artist!” are all common statements made by the cynics. These views quickly fade, however, upon understanding the real purpose of a working professional: You’re supposed to find fulfillment and excitement during the 33 percent of your life that you spend working. As a bonus, you’ll likely (though not always) enjoy better financial returns, and easily become a more valued individual in the workforce.
A fellow business school graduate once told me that his older brother ditched a high-earning position as a lawyer in Silicon Valley to become a grade school teacher. He chose excitement (read: happiness) in favor of societal esteem and even personal wealth. Last I heard he was a very happy man making enough to support his family while doing what he loved.
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Jobs rhetorically asked the same group of Stanford undergraduates. “Whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
You have a choice assuming your answer has consecutively been “No.” It just depends on how you want to live your life. — BLAKE SNOW